Nothing makes you better and doing something than actually doing it. Hence the expression “practice makes perfect.” Hands on, real world experience is the best teacher. Getting that experience isn’t always so easy but in IT we have more opportunity to get experience earlier than in almost any other field.
Almost everyone uses computers today including members of your family and your friends. Chances are that many of them will need help with their computers from time to time and this represents an opportunity for you to demonstrate your abilities with computers and customer service.
Dealing with family computer problems will not exactly prepare you for the issues that you are going to face in the business realm but it will give you a pretty good idea of what it is like dealing with “users” and some of the problems that they usually face. Business users will have different problems including complex networking issues involving interfacing with active directory and storage servers. Home users are more likely to encounter complex hardware issues involving non-standard peripherals that they want to attach to their computer and are far more likely to be dealing with virus and malware.
Helping home users keep their computers humming along, doing operating system reinstallations, setting up computers, teaching family members how to use their applications, etc. will help you be prepared for real world problems. Even though helping friends and family may not be the optimum learning situation it is an opportunity that you will almost always have at your disposal and it should not be overlooked. Working with home users will also give you a broader scope of hardware and software configurations that you will have run across. But keep in mind that the software and hardware that you encounter in homes is seldom the same as what you will find in business.
Home users are increasingly using network devices such as routers and firewalls, switches, wireless, print servers, media servers and even network attached storage. Networking home computers, setting up anti-virus packages, doing tuning and more can contribute to a well-rounded desktop support education. Be sure to focus on security as well. Home users need security as well.